First BADM 720 Posting

The article by Alsop about MBA programs beginning to put more value on “soft skills” was very interesting.  One of the reasons MBA programs may have been reluctant to take the teaching of skills such as leadership and listening more seriously is because MBA programs are so competitive with each other.  All of the MBA recruitment packages I read as I picked which program to attend were full of facts and statistics regarding graduates of their program.  It is a great recruiting advantage for a program to be able to claim that their graduates are taught advanced skills that are not part of the curriculum at other programs.  In this type of head-to-head comparison it is much easier to quantify the “hard” skills than it is the “soft” ones.  This is because mastery of the hard skills can be more easily demonstrated.  For example, if a student gets an “A” in econometrics, it is likely that they will be able to leave college and run many different types of regressions.  However, a student could get an “A” in a communications course and still leave school too nervous to speak up in a department meeting.    This difference likely persuades programs to lean more towards the hard skills in an attempt to make the benefits of attending their program and hiring their graduates seem more quantifiable.

The reason for the shifting focus towards the softer skills is likely a result of the same competition.  As studies like the Wall Street Journal/Harris study cited in this article have become more prevalent, programs now realize that, quantifiable or not, the soft skills are important parts of any graduate’s professional repertoire.  It is fascinating to see these programs move slowly forward as they try to figure out what will work and what won’t.  One of the courses that particularly interested me was the listening course being offered by the MBA program at Notre Dame (hopefully they aren’t this innovative during this Saturday’s football game).  It may be hard to claim in a brochure that your graduates are the best listeners, but hopefully the skills those students acquire will lead to greater success in their careers.  MBA programs can make their brochures just as competitive by listing how many of their graduates are high ranking executives as opposed to how many of them are finance wizards. It is encouraging to see more and more programs adopting this more business friendly, and more holistic style of curriculum.

The second article touched on other skills that employers believes recent MBA students are lacking upon graduation.  One of the major complaints of the article was that graduates could not write well enough to be taken seriously in a business setting.  MBA programs may assume that their students come in knowing how to write already.  It may seem redundant to try and fit basic business writing into their already crowded curriculum.  This curriculum real estate in even more precious when considering some of the statements made later in the article.  Programs are offering more specialized courses to give their program and edge against those that offer a broader, more generalized curriculum.  Adding a basic writing class to the curriculum is much less appealing than adding an advanced course in Chinese Economics.

In a perfect world an MBA program would offer both the hyper-specialized classes and basic skills courses.  However it is possible that some programs, especially during the current period of education cutbacks, may not be able to expand to include both (or either).  This leaves business schools with a dilemma.  Writing and leadership may seem more important than more specialized classes; however it is also more likely that they will be offered at other programs.  Specialization courses may not be as essential as the ability to write and relate to employees, but it may be more useful in helping separate a program from others.  It is unclear which of these should take precedence.  One possible solution would be to make the application to the program more writing intensive.  This would allow the school to only take those who already showed a command over basic business writing.  This would allow them to add more specialization classes to the program; countering the two primary problems employers discussed in the article.  The only possible problem arises in that tight screenings may limit the pool of qualified applicants, especially those who speak english as a second language.

The final article was an overview of the Kenneth W. Monfort College of Business at the University of North Colorado.  In order to stand out from other business schools they cut their MBA program and instead offer only a B.S. in business administration.  This has led to exceptional results.  The Monfort School is consistently ranked in the to 2.5 percent of undergraduate programs and 98.3 percent of their 2002-03 graduates were employed or in graduate school soon after commencement.  It is interesting to see a school that has taken an unconventional path to success and recognition.  It is possible that by limiting themselves to one program they have been able to hyper-focus and put more time, thought, and money into their undergraduate program than they would have been able to if they offered multiple degrees.

However, while this method has worked for them, I am unsure as to whether this model would find the same success were it more widely adopted.  The fact that some of their graduates go on to graduate school shows that the single undergraduate BS may not include everything that employees are looking for.  The Monfort School offers an interesting alternative to the traditional undergraduate and master’s business administration programs.  It will be interesting to see if other institutions are able to duplicate their success model or if their program is a phenomenon limited only to them.

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1 Comment

  1. Mr WordPress said,

    September 3, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Hi, this is a comment.
    To delete a comment, just log in, and view the posts’ comments, there you will have the option to edit or delete them.


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